MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
New information has emerged in recent days about the sexual assault allegation made against Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The allegation was made by Tara Reade who worked as a junior staffer in his Senate office in 1993 when she says the assault occurred. His campaign denies the accusation. NPR has now spoken to a former neighbor of Reade's, the first person to corroborate Reade's account in detail on the record, recalling a conversation from about 25 years ago. We should mention this story contains descriptions that will be upsetting to many listeners. Let me bring in NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid, who has been looking into this.
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi there.
KELLY: Just briefly tell us - what is the actual allegation that Reade is making here?
KHALID: She says that sometime in the spring of 1993 in a hallway on Capitol Hill, Joe Biden pinned her up against a wall and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. The Biden campaign has said that Reade's claim is untrue - that it absolutely did not happen.
KELLY: So you have now spoken with an old neighbor of Tara Reade's who's corroborating her allegation. Who is that and what are they saying?
KHALID: Yeah, that's right. Her name is Lynda LaCasse, and her name first came to our attention because of some interview she did with Business Insider. They published this account earlier this week in which Lynda LaCasse, who was a neighbor of Reade's in California in the mid-1990s, says that Reade told her about the assault. LaCasse did not respond to my initial messages or phone calls, but through Tara Reade, I was able to reach her earlier today. And I should note that through public records, NPR was also able to verify that Reade and LaCasse were neighbors for a point in the 1990s. So LaCasse told me that she recalls stepping outside one day in 1995 or early 1996 and Reade joined her and they started talking. And at that point, Reade started sharing this story of an alleged assault by Joe Biden. What she told me matches the details of what Reade has alleged.
LYNDA LACASSE: I do remember her telling me that Joe Biden had put her up against the wall and had put his hand - his hand - his hand up her skirt and had put his fingers inside her.
KHALID: And, Mary Louise, what also caught my ear in speaking with LaCasse is that she describes herself as a strong Democrat. She told me she intends to support Joe Biden in the general election. And I asked her, you know, how she reconciles voting for a man whom she believes assaulted her old friend.
LACASSE: Biden isn't a bad guy. I think he's an OK guy. He just has this - this just happened. It just happened. It did happen.
KELLY: Asma, has any other information emerged, any other people stepping forward to corroborate or try to shoot down this account?
KHALID: Well, there's another woman by the name of Lorraine Sanchez. She was a former co-worker of Reade's in the '90s. They both worked for the state legislator in California. We were not able to reach her ourselves. She was cited also in Business Insider where she did not confirm the assault, but she did refer to sexual harassment by Joe Biden, and that's something else that Tara Reade has alleged. But again, it's something that former staffers in Biden's office strongly deny. The other new bit of information that has emerged involves Tara Reade's mother. Reade has said that she told her mother about the alleged assault at the time. Her mother has since passed away. Last week, video of what Reade says is her mother calling into "Larry King Live" in 1993 surfaced.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LARRY KING LIVE")
JEANETTE ALTIMUS: I'm wondering what a staffer would to do besides go to the press in Washington. My daughter has just left there after working for a prominent senator and could not get through with her problems at all. And the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.
KHALID: You know, this woman, who was not identified by name there on "Larry King Live," says that her daughter chose not to really go to the press with any of her problems in this senator's office because of respect for the senator. But no, you know, she does not mention sexual harassment, she does not mention sexual assault, nor does she mention Joe Biden.
KELLY: OK. Well, this brings us to what Biden says. Now, his campaign says this did not happen. That's what his campaign says. Has the former vice president himself personally responded?
KHALID: No, he has not. A number of Democrats supporting him have been asked about it. And yesterday on CNN, Stacey Abrams who ran for governor of Georgia in 2018 and, you know, has vocally said that she would like to be considered for the vice presidential position - she said that she believes Joe Biden.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
STACEY ABRAMS: I believe the Biden I know, and I think that he will make women proud - that he will make America proud.
KHALID: A lot of the women speaking up here defending Joe Biden are echoing the message that we've heard from Biden's campaign. They point to his strong legislative record of supporting women, and they say that women have a right to be heard, but they believe this specific allegation just did not happen.
KELLY: And just quickly Asma, what about Republicans? There's going to be a presidential election in November. How are Republicans navigating this?
KHALID: Well, they have been amplifying this allegation. They were criticizing the media, saying that it was not being covered as much as some of the allegations against Republican men. You know, now a number of news outlets have covered this story, but they are also pressuring Democrats to address it. I will say, though, that it is very complicated in a political context because Donald Trump himself has been accused of multiple instances of sexual assault, which he denies.
KELLY: NPR's Asma Khalid. And there is lots more reporting on this story at npr.org.
KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.